White Sox won’t be able to ease Jose Abreu back in NL park
BY TONI GINNETTI For Sun-Times Media May 31, 2014 10:46PM
ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, MAY 17-18 - FILE - In this May 4, 2014 file photo, Chicago White Sox's Jose Abreu (79) watches his home run against the Cleveland Indians in a baseball game in Cleveland. Some 5,000 feet of homers in just six weeks, another successful mile in a bridge that runs from Abreus native Cuba to the Chicago White Sox. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File) ORG XMIT: NY180
Updated: July 2, 2014 3:05PM
The novelty of interleague baseball wore off for fans and players long ago.
Unless it’s the New York Yankees traveling to a National League city, there’s hardly any buzz to games between teams that used to be able to meet only in the World Series.
The San Diego Padres are visiting the White Sox for only the second time, but they’re making the most of the trip with two victories, including a 4-2 win Saturday that drew a modest 19,025.
For American League teams traveling to NL cities, the dilemma remains playing without a designated hitter.
For the Sox, who head to Los Angeles Monday to play the Dodgers, it likely will mean putting slugger Jose Abreu at first base if he is able to return from the disabled list instead of easing him back as the DH.
Abreu took swings Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field in a brief simulated game, one in which he took an unexpected ball to the back of his upper left arm as he was testing his ailing left ankle. Abreu shook off the unintended plunk from Class A right-hander Bradley Salgado, who was brought up for the occasion.
Abreu will have another simulated game Sunday. But a simulated game tests Abreu’s batting eye and approach at the plate, not his mobility in the field.
If the Sox didn’t want Abreu to play in the field, he’d have to wait until Friday, when the team makes the short trip from Los Angeles to Anaheim to play the Angels.
Manager Robin Ventura said the Sox decided against sending Abreu on a minor-league rehab assignment to keep a closer eye on him.
‘‘I think [trainer] Herm [Schneider] was pretty adamant about keeping him here and being able to watch him, and we have a better idea of his mannerisms and his reactions to certain things,’’ Ventura said.
Schneider was there to check Abreu’s upper left arm after he was hit, and it only briefly interrupted his session.
‘‘You’re giving [Abreu] the ability to see a guy live instead of just throwing batting practice,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘He’ll have to take pitches, and I think the biggest thing is just, reaction-wise, seeing pitches.’’
While Abreu was hitting, pitchers were taking swings, too. But the exercise of preparing for NL parks is not the ritual it once was after 17 years of interleague play.
‘‘It was different when it was bunched together in June and you’d have all the interleague games at once,’’ Gordon Beckham said. ‘‘But in terms of how we do it now and the games are throughout the schedule, you don’t think about it much [being] in a National League park.
‘‘And being in your own park, you don’t think about playing a National League team.’’
Ventura, who played in both leagues, knows playing without the DH ‘‘is a bit of a disadvantage for American League teams.’’
But he doesn’t believe the DH rule should change in NL parks.
‘‘I think there’s a uniqueness that the National League has in having pitchers hit. It’s good for your team. I actually like the National League game as far as a team concept of it because everybody needs to be ready. You never know with the double switches when guys are going to go in and play.
‘‘I don’t think the bench gets as stagnant as it does in the American League because guys are always in the game. You seem to use your bench more in the National League than you do in the American League.’’
What interleague play has done is emphasize a constant in baseball.
‘‘The thing you have to do in baseball is treat every game the exact same,’’ Beckham said. ‘‘It’s just another game, and that’s how you have to look at it.’’